The People’s Law Library, an online database dedicated to helping Marylanders answer their legal questions, is undergoing a leadership change.
David Pantzer, the library’s web content coordinator, is stepping down from the position next week after four years to join Simms Showers LLP in Cockeysville. Chi Song, a lawyer-librarian at the Maryland State Law Library, which houses the program, will serve as interim coordinator until the organization hires a permanent replacement.
Pantzer, 39, joined The People’s Law after a stint at the Social Security Administration.
“I was looking for something a little more big picture, something where I could try to work for bigger results and help more people at once,” Pantzer said.
The library was founded in 1997 – it predates Google – to offer answers to legal questions in plain English to people who do not have lawyers. Topics, which are more skewed toward civil cases, range from housing law, family law, consumer law and employment law, among other areas.
The People’s Law also refers residents to legal services organizations and has many other partnerships with libraries, government lawyers, the attorney general’s office and area law schools.
“That has been my biggest goal,” Pantzer said of the partnerships.
The program has one full-time coordinator plus a few fellows each year that are either law students or new attorneys. Pantzer said his ideal replacement will have a technology background with “sensitivity to the needs of self-representing people,” specifically, being attuned to the community’s legal needs.
During Pantzer’s tenure, area university students helped translate information in the People’s Law database; soon, one-third of the articles on the site will be available in Spanish, Pantzer said.
The People’s Law also made an offline version of the site available in prisons to help the incarcerated get their legal questions answered.
Even though the library offers a wealth of information, it does not minimize the value of having a lawyer, Pantzer said.
“This is not about trying to convince people they don’t need lawyers,” Pantzer said.
Instead, attorneys can work the service into their practice model. For example, People’s Law has a custody and divorce client notebook that is distributed at self-help centers to help with family law issues. The notebook helps people get organized in the initial stages of the case without paying for a lawyer, said Pantzer.
“If you’re the lawyer, you can have a business model that involves serving these people but the early stage of the case can be more organized,” Pantzer said.
Pantzer said he will continue to volunteer at People’s Law and stay involved in certain projects.